Roberts to be quizzed over memo on torture
In disavowed 2002 document, a Justice official argued president could supersede laws on issue.
Associated Press | August 30 2005
By Jesse J. Holland
WASHINGTON -- Democrats plan to question Supreme Court nominee John Roberts about a disavowed Justice Department memo that critics say led to torture in foreign prisons, top Senate Judiciary Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont said Monday.
Leahy said he gave Roberts a copy of the so-called "Bybee memo" during a meeting Monday. President Bush nominated Roberts in July to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee argued in a Jan. 22, 2002, memo that the president has the power to issue orders that violate the Geneva Conventions as well as international and U.S. laws prohibiting torture.
"It will be raised, partly on the question of to what area -- if any -- can a president be considered above the law," Leahy said.
The meeting came as the National Archives released more documents from Roberts' time as a government lawyer in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. In one document, Roberts suggested that a conservative supporter of President Reagan "go soak his head" after the supporter criticized the White House for avoiding a friend's fight with immigration officials.
In other documents, Roberts pushed the Reagan administration to get its conservative policies enacted so future presidents could not readily overturn them. And he showed displeasure with the federal judiciary, saying the Justice Department needs to get legal solutions "less dependent on the fiat of unelected jurists."
Bybee, who is now a federal judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote the now-disavowed memo soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Critics in Congress and many legal experts say the original document set up a legal framework that led to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
The White House says the United States has always operated under the spirit of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit violence, torture and humiliating treatment of prisoners of war.